10 Best Tactical Folding Knives for Self Defense
Do you remember that scene from Crocodile Dundee when Dundee gets threatened by a guy carrying a small pocket knife? He laughs it off, and shows him that he’s got a big kitchen knife. Now, do you remember that scene from Indiana Jones where the Arabian dude does tons of cool moves with his sword, threatening to slice and dice Indiana? Once he stops his impressive display of skills, Indiana pulls out a handgun and stops him in his tracks for good.
What’s the point of this short excursion into the history of cinema? My point is that that having the better weapon is often a decisive factor in any physical battle. If you’re fighting against someone with a gun, you really don’t stand a chance either way. Unless they come really close or they get distracted and you have the opportunity to disarm them.
But if the other person has a knife or doesn’t have any weapon, your chances of survival increase drastically if you have a great tactical knife at hand and know how to use it.
A reliable tactical knife is not only an amazing self-defense weapon, it’s also a good deterrent. A hostile person or a crowd will be less likely to attack you if they see that you can deal some damage.
I’ve compared the 50 best rated knives by experts and regular users that you can carry for self defense at all times. The features I compared was their size, reliability, material construction, price and unique features that make some of them stand out. The 10 knives on this list proved to be the best for everyday carry.
1. Buck Bones
Buck Bones is high on this list for a number of reasons. The most striking feature is that it’s crafted from durable 420HC steel. The tough steel construction is also covered by non-reflective coating and is resistant to corrosion.
The added serrations on the blade make it a useful cutting tool, while the angled point blade can be used for piercing, prying and scraping.
It’s also lightweight, weighing only 4.4 oz, while being medium-sized. When closed, the length is 4-5 inches compared to 8″ when unfolded. So it’s pretty convenient to carry around in a deep pocket, while being large enough when opened to serve as a good weapon.
Speaking of fights, the thumb stud on the blade is useful for facilitating a smooth one hand opening action. You don’t have to worry about the blade closing while you’re delivering blows either, because it has a reliable frame lock that keeps it securely in place even if there’s significant pressure on the blade.
The knife is also safe and comfortable for the strikers hand thanks to the ergonomic curved handle with grip points that ensure a good grasp.
Along with the knife, you also get a deep pocket carry clip, which allows you to discreetly carry the knife and access it quickly when you have to.
If you prefer a different style, there’s also silver and tiger aesthetic to choose from.
Finally, we have to mention the price. This is arguably the best tactical folding knife on the market, and it’s a bit more expensive than other knives on this list. And yet, it still costs less than $80 on Amazon at the moment of writing.
Buck Knives also offers a lifetime warranty on all of their knives including Buck Bones. Check out the current price and reviews on Amazon to learn more.
2. Smith & Wesson SWMP4L
This is another excellent blade, made from tough black oxide stainless steel. It’s also got a black aluminium handle with rubber inlay which is really comfortable for the hand and provides a good grip.
It’s similar in size to the Buck Bones. The blade length is 3.6 inches, so when it’s closed it’s around 5″, and when its fully opened it’s 8.6″ (21.8 cm). One downside when compared to Buck is that this knife is heavier, weighing 7.6 oz when compared to Bucks 4.4 oz.
What about self defense features? Aside from providing a good grip, you also get a convenient pocket clip that ensures fast and easy access, as long as you’re carrying it in a pocket or somewhere close.
The flipper/finger actuator and the M.A.G.I.C. assisted opening feature provide very fast opening of the blade. Once it’s opened, the liner lock and safety lock ensure that it will stay in place as long as you want it to.
Another handy feature of this blade is the ambidextrous thumb plate, which means that it’s equally comfortable for right and left hand use.
Overall, it’s very similar to Buck Bones, only with the added downside of being 3.2 oz heavier. However, it makes up for it with a better price. You can find this Smith & Wesson tactical knife on Amazon for under $40, which you have to admit is a real bargain.
3. Schrade SCHA4BG
The Schrade is in some aspects very similar to the S&M we just looked at. It’s made by the same company, Taylor Brands, and it’s no wonder that they’ve stuck to a recipe that works well.
So you get the same stainless steel construction and spring-assisted opening with the backup safety lock. And of course, the pocket clip.
So where’s the difference? There are a few important differences: shape, size and weight.
The main difference is the shape of the blade and the handle. It has a scoop-backed drop point, which works really well for defense and outdoor survival utility. In other words, the blade is designed to be multi-functional. On the other hand, the slightly curved and thick rubbery handle provides an improved grip.
Some people prefer a grip with less curvature, while others prefer this type. It comes down to fighting style preference. This type of handle makes it more difficult for the opponent to kick the knife out of your hand. But it also makes switching the blade from one hand to the other slower. However, you’ll almost never gonna do that anyway so it doesn’t really matter in a life or death situation.
When it comes to size, this blade is about 1 inch shorter than S&M. The blade length is 3.3 inches while the handle length is 4.4 inches. So the overall length is 7.7″, compared to S&M’s 8.6″. However, it’s much lighter as well, weighing only 3.1 oz, while S&M weighs 7.6 oz.
So overall, this is a versatile knife that can be used equally as an everyday carry for self defense and for survival in a tough environment.
You might however prefer a longer knife like S&M or a smaller one like this one. The benefit of a longer knife is that you don’t have to get too close to the opponent to deal damage, while the benefit of a shorter knife is that it’s harder to kick from your hand. The Schrade also allows for a strong grip thanks to the thick, curved handle, improving this feature to it’s max.
It goes without saying that it’s also easier to carry in a pocket because it’s smaller and lighter. Having said all that, the Schrade costs around $20 on Amazon, which is about $20 less than S&M. That’s a pretty good deal for the top 3 knife on this list!
4. Ontario 8904
This classy looking knife earns the fourth spot on this list thanks to high quality construction and a very simple but deadly design.
It’s crafted from AUS-8A steel, with the blade being 0.115″ thick and hardness of 56-58 HCR, which ensures serious cutting power that’s difficult to defend against.
Ontario knives are used by the U.S. government’s security and military forces, so the quality of the blade and handle is the number one concern of the brand.
This knife has an ergonomic styled Zytel handle with a matte satin finish. It’s designed for equally comfortable grip with left or right hand.
It has a thumbstud that allows for easy one-handed opening and a titanium lock that keeps the blade in place.
The size is pretty standard, with a 3.5 inch blade. When closed, the knife is 4.5 inches long, and when it’s opened it’s 8 inches long. It weighs 5.6 ounces, so somewhere between S&M and Schrade, the previous two knives on our list.
So what can you expect from Ontario 8904? You can expect reliable, top class performance and longevity. It doesn’t have the unique look of the Buck Bones, but no one questions its performance on the field, which is why it’s popular with the US military and government security forces, as well as regular citizens who use it for everyday protection.
It’s also pretty affordable. This Ontario folding knife costs around $30 on Amazon. On top of that, it includes a four-position pocket clip so you can reach for your knife in any situation.
5. Gerber Paraframe II
This is a very popular self defense knife that comes in 3 sizes, and my friend recently bought the largest one that has a 3.5 inch blade. The two smaller designs have a 2.18″ and 2.88″ blade. So you could say that the largest one is medium-sized, while the other two can be considered small.
The largest one is 3 1/16 inch closed and 5 1/8 open. It’s also pretty slim, so it’s really easy to carry even in smaller pockets. It also comes with a pocket clip for everyday carry, just like the previous knives on this list.
However, there are two other reasons why this Gerber knife deserves to be on the list. First is the excellent, super sharp blade. I’ve tried throwing it and it pierces through a plank and gets firmly stuck every single time. It also provides a really comfortable grip, and I felt secure wielding it like a small double edged sword. The second reason is the aesthetic design. It looks intimidating, and even better in real life than it does on the photo.
Aside from those features, it fulfills all of the standard requirements you’d expect from a good tactical knife. The black titanium nitride coating that protects from corrosion, the frame lock safety function and the dual thumbstuds for easy one-handed opening are all included.
The cost of this Gerber knife is around $30, while the two smaller models cost less. All three are available on Amazon, where you can check their current price, along with more than 950 customer reviews.
6. Kershaw Carbon Fiber Pocket Knife
There are two advantages to having a carbon fiber knife as opposed to a regular steel knife. The first is the weight. Carbon fiber is a lighter material, and this decently sized knife weighs only 2.9 oz, which makes it the most lightweight on this list.
The second benefit is being able to pull it through a metal detector unnoticed. This may or may not interest you, but it’s definitely a cool feature.
This Kershaw knife has a steel blade that is coated in titanium carbo-nitride coating which makes it look pretty special. The blade is 3.25 inches long.
The blade is opened with a built-in flipper and many users have commented that it opens quickly and easily even after months of regularly playing around with it.
The carbon fiber handle makes it really light. This is obviously a good thing, but some people wrongly assume that light means lesser quality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Carbon fiber is equally strong as steel, and in this case it makes for a very smooth and slick inner part of the handle. The blue part on the outer part of the handle provides some traction though, and improves the overall grip.
The knife is 7.5 inches long when opened, and 4 inches when closed. So if you’re looking for a knife that is both of a decent size AND light enough so you can carry it with ease, this is the one.
This Kershaw knife is usually priced around $50, but at the moment of writing it’s on a 27% discount on Amazon. Check out if the discount is still available if you’re interested in getting one of these bad boys.
7. Smith & Wesson SWFR2S
This S&W can be considered as a budget version of SWMP4L that’s on the second place. At almost half the price it still has some awesome features that make it a good self defense weapon, and more.
First of all, it’s 8 inch large, with the blade length of 3.3 inches, and it weighs 4.4 oz. The blade is made from high carbon black oxide stainless steel. The handle is made from black, textured aluminum. The ambidextrous thumb knobs allow for both hand use, plus it features a nice pocket clip for safely storing in a pocket.
One thing that I always look for with self defense knives is how fast they can open and whether the liner lock is stable enough to remain in place if the blade gets kicked from the side. This S&W has received multiple compliments for the fast opening and the strong lock, and there’s well over 700 customer reviews you can check out for yourself.
Along with these reliable features, the knife also has a glass break and strap cutter as additional perks. Still, don’t expect the same quality and durability as you’d get from a Buck Bones or a Schrade knife for example. Those will stay in optimal shape for a longer time, and they have better quality blades which won’t get dulled quickly, even if you use them in your various outdoor activities. But for a knife that costs just around $15, this affordable Smith & Wesson is a reliable folder for self defense.
8. Tactical Legion’s Large Folding Knife
Remember that story about Crocodile Dundee and his huge knife? This one isn’t THAT big, but it sure looks intimidating, and it’s large and heavy. Just imagine being cornered by someone with a small knife and you take out this heavy duty knife from your belt sheath. There are few things in this world more frightening than that!
The sheer size and design are intimidating, but are the other features of equal quality? Yes, and that’s got a lot to do with the fact that this knife is designed for surviving in wilderness as well as self defense. What this means is that it has a razor shape blade that is both strong and durable and a long-lasting handle.
It’s meant to be used often and to be strong enough to endure tasks like cutting off branches and fighting off wild animals or cutting them open. The blade is made from stainless steel and has anti-corrosion properties. You can unleash it by pressing on the flipper, and it stays in place thanks to the heavy duty liner lock. The handle is also fairly big, so if you have a large hand it will fit well on it.
Along with these basic features, it also carries a LMF style pommel and a lanyard. Along with the knife comes a heavy duty Nylon Cordura Belt Sheath. You can wear it vertically or horizontally on your waist belt. Or you can use it to conceal the knife in your vehicle, backpack or anywhere else you feel it could come in handy.
The affordable price is another tempting feature of this knife. This Tactical Legion’s large folding knife costs less than $25. There are also two differently colored handles to choose from, black and green (shown on the photo). So check which color you like the best because it does matter from a visual perspective.
Keep in mind that this is a large knife, so storing it in your pocket is not ideal. Using the belt sheath, especially the one that comes with the knife is a more comfortable option.
9. Buck Knives 0288 QuickFire
The second Buck knife on this list brings the same quality, but a few differences that are worthy of consideration. This is a small USA made knife that’s very easy to carry in a pocket.
The best feature is the “quick-firing” one-hand opening of the knife. The opening of the blade is supported by a dual-spring release, while it stays locked in open or closed position thanks to a strong mid-lock design.
Speaking of the blade, it’s made from 420HC steel and deliver excellent strength and is equipped with corrosion resisting properties. It can be used for outdoor tasks as well as self defense.
The blade is 2.4 inches long, while the closed length of the knife is around 4.1 inches. It weighs just 3.6 oz.
The handle is made from plastic, but very tough plastic, as you can see being commented by many customer reviewers. The plastic handle as opposed to a metal one is the reason why it’s lighter than other knives of similar size.
Just like the Buck Bones, which is the first review on this list, this knife has a lifetime warranty as well. So you can replace or have it fixed at any time. This shows that Buck Knives believe in the quality of their knives, so definitely a big thumbs up for that!
The price is reasonable, just under $45 on Amazon. Check out the product page for the exact price and more details, including over 230 customer reviews.
10. Benchmade – Barrage 580 Knife
The final knife on this list is also the most high quality knife you can find. But it’s also the most expensive on this list, costing around $130. So if the price doesn’t put you off and you’re willing to invest in awesome quality, keep reading.
One customer reviewed this knife by saying this:
“..after 6 months of daily use, it still takes the hair off my arm”
“The assist mechanism on this knife is a blast to use. The blade swings out very fast and locks firmly with an intimidating click, wich can only be compared to sending the bolt home on your ar.
The blade is very strong with no wobble and it ends in one of the most beautiful drop points I have ever seen, it is thick where it needs to be thick, and thin where it needs to be thin. It can be used as anything from a box cutter to an axe.”
This isn’t just one comment though; you can read over 100 testimonies like this one from people who are knife fanatics and this Benchmade Barrage 580 blew them away.
Here are the specs. It has a 154CM (58-61 HRC) stainless steel blade that is rust resistant and 3.60″ long, while the thickness of the blade is 0.121″.
The open length is 8.35″, while the closed length is 4.75″. It weighs 4.31 oz, which is pretty lean considering the overall size.
Proper grip is ensured with a tough plastic, ergonomic handle, which can be held with either hand equally well.
The really powerful feature of this blade is the super fast one-handed opening and closing system. It uses a unique technology known as “AXIS Assist”, which makes the blade open almost at the same time when you press it.
The drop-point utility style is made with the intention of using the knife for self defense, outdoors activities and any time you need to slice and dice something.
Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but you’ve heard this already about almost every other knife on the list. What’s the difference and why is this knife more expensive? The difference is in the higher quality of every one of these features, especially the quality of the blade. The blade on a cheaper knife will wear out more quickly, and you don’t get the same cutting precision or strength.
The Barrage 508 provides both cutting power and durability of the blade, so you can use it for virtually any outdoor activity a knife is typically used for, for months without having to sharpen it at all. The blade will stay equally effective. You don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the hundreds of reviews from regular customers who’ve had this knife for years and it’s still as good as new.
However, if you need a knife only for self defense, getting this super-durable knife might not be necessary. But it makes a lot of sense if you’d use it for outdoor activities as well.
The Barrage 508 is protected with Benchmade’s limited Lifetime Warranty which you can use if your knife needs repair or sharpening at any time in the future.
Final Word: Best Folding Knife for Self Defense
Having a great folding knife in your pocket can save your life on the streets, or even at home in case of a break in. But what makes a good everyday carry knife?
It’s not just the quality of the blade, or the smooth handle, or whether it opens fast or not. It’s ALL of these features combined. And that’s what I was looking for when making this list; the folding knives that if you could quickly access in a tough situation to save your life.
Some of these knives are super affordable, costing just $15-$20, while the Barrage 508 costs around $130-$140 depending on the color you get. But the standard, average price for a good tactical folding knife is around $30-$50, and that’s the average price of the blades on this list as well.
I didn’t really care about the price, I wanted to focus on the features. The difference in the price has more to do with whether the knife is versatile or not.
More versatile knives are designed for not only those rare self defense situations, but also for the Bear Grills types among us. Those of us that need a durable knife which can be used frequently for outdoor activities without developing the common issues of dull edges that need to get sharpened very often or broken handles.
If you only plan on using the knife as an everyday carry for self defense, you can get a pretty affordable knife and it will do the job just as well. So I hope this list helps you to find the best tactical folding knife for your requirements.